Falmouth council hopes to fast-track Route 1 development project

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FALMOUTH — Town Councilors on Monday discussed the next steps in a partnership announced last week with the Maine Department of Transportation that will make about 11 acres of state-owned land along Route 1 available for private development.

MDOT give the land at the eastern end of the Maine Turnpike Falmouth Spur to a developer, who in exchange will have to remove the turnpike overpass and ramps and create a level-grade intersection.

The agreement will save MDOT the expense of maintaining and/or rebuilding the spur. The developer will be selected by the town, and the work will have to be approved by MDOT. The town will maintain the intersection.

“All parties have something to gain here,” Town Manager Nathan Poore said at Monday night’s council meeting.

Councilors decided to vet proposals in executive sessions to have negotiating leverage with prospective developers.

Poore said a request-for-proposals process is being developed and modeled after the sale of the former town schools on Lunt Road to the OceanView retirement community. That property sold in 2013 for $3.25 million.

But unlike the school process, and after some discussion, the council for the time being decided not to hire a real estate broker for the Route 1 project.

Council Vice Chairman Russell Anderson said he didn’t see the downside to hiring a broker, other than a minimal fee. Poore indicated it could be possible to have the developer eventually pay for  the fee.

“This is a terrific opportunity, and we need to market it that way, we need to do it justice,” Anderson said. He added there would be some value in talking to commercial brokers in seeing how to market such a property. “… I don’t know why we’d go it alone on marketing this.”

Poore said if the town markets the property, it would do it through paid advertising, business publications, national websites, a large database of developers they already have, and other methods. He said a broker would bring larger networking skills to the table.

Councilor Karen Farber said she is concerned about doing the vetting “too much out of the public’s eye.”

Ultimately, councilors decided to vet the proposals as quickly as possible, and to issue the RFP as soon as possible.

Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long-range planning, said if councilors tell Poore to execute the agreement with MDOT at their Jan. 25 meeting, the town would be ready to issue the RFP the next day. The MDOT requested a land appraisal, and Holtwijk said he expects the report to be received in February.

A pre-bid conference would be held in February, which Holtwijk said will be an opportunity for interested developers to ask questions. April 11 could be the due date for proposals, Holtwijk said. If all went according to the time line, groundbreaking would occur in the spring 2017.

Farber had concerns about the time line, saying it seemed like “an incredibly short window” to ask for the proposals to come back.

“I’m worried that this schedule is too aggressive,” Farber said.

Holtwijk said the town believed the time line is appropriate, but said more time could be added if necessary.

“It is in the town’s interest to get quality proposals,” Holtwijk said. He added town staff are working under the impression that the development community wants to move fast. “If people are interested they can move mountains.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The town announced last week that it will partner with the Maine Department of Transportation, which will turn over 11 acres of land for development on Route 1.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.
  • Paem

    Is it too late to put Rivalries on this property? I don’t live in the Tidewater Farm neighborhood, but I understand the residents’ objections and feel badly for them that the town didn’t see their side.